Penny returned a few weeks ago. At the time I assumed she was just grazing in the yard not nesting. After having our elm trees removed, I didn’t think she had the perfect spot anymore. Clever mama she is she found one though in the Pompei grass. I stumbled upon it blowing out leaves in a big Spring clean-up effort. From that day on I’ve kept watch for when she’d start “sitting” on her eggs. Nature it seems is very predictable and like her previous clutches she laid 12-13 eggs and then started sitting on them round the clock.
The other day after going out to check on her I had 40 cents come flying out of the clothes dryer as I was removing the laundry. It struck me (literally on the foot) that this whole process with her works in a 40-day cycle. Knowing the divine is in the details it brought to mind the significance of 40 days in the Bible. The number 40 has always had great symbolic meaning for the Jews and today it does among Christians and Muslims.
When used in terms of time, 40 represents a period of probation or trial followed by a season of grace. I love this imagery for Penny. I don’t know what it’s like to lay an egg but I’ve had a couple children and it’s not as easy as just popping them out. Duck eggs are fairly large and she has to do this in secret with nobody coaching her through. Hang with me here don’t quack up….
Then the harder work starts. She’s got to sit on those eggs for 28 days straight rain or shine. I can barely handle sitting for 5 minutes in simple cross legs at yoga in a temperature-controlled room. I can’t imagine 28 in one spot while weathering wind, rain, snow, sleet and hail—which she has thanks to Colorado’s unpredictable Spring climate.
All the while predators are lurking. There’s our dog, the neighbor’s cat, a fox and the dreaded raccoons. However, I’d like to believe my anti-raccoon measures have mitigated this problem. So far, it seems they have. Then there’s me. Penny and I normally get along just fine but this year she’s made it clear she’s a little frazzled. If I step into the rocks, she comes flying straight at me.
The adventure doesn’t end for Penny on hatching day but a duck in the water with her babies has a fighting chance. Dare I say it affords her some grace. She can do what comes naturally—swim and fly. Pond life isn’t completely free of worry but it’s not as much of a trial.
Pondering the life of a duck seems crazy but if nature isn’t one of our greatest teacher’s I don’t know what is. Heck, Jesus tells the disciples to consider the birds of the field and the wisdom they offer. So, my duck what lesson or reminder does she have to offer? Something I already know but easily forget—mothering is seasonal.
Mothers with all ages of children have periods of trial and testing followed by seasons of grace. It’s not like duck time with nice 40-day segments but there’s definitely a pattern with the only thing that changes being the duration and intensity.
For the mother of young children, it’s sleep deprivation, potty training, separation anxiety and the unbelievable demands of having the perfect Pinterest inspired birthday party. For the mother of school-aged children it’s homework, bullies, sassy mouths, and battling every germ brought home. Middle school and high school years I won’t even go there. Bigger kids—bigger problems I always say. The college years can be a little golden but then wham all of a sudden there’s the serious angst of “finding yourself”. I told a friend the other day I’m so sick of my eldest’s faith/identity crisis I want to smack him and say, “Snap out of it!” He’s moved out and yet he keeps showing up to talk to me about this.
The days during these seasons of trial seem to go slowly and then you stand back and realize the years flew by. However, the pattern remains—periods of stormy unpredictable weather followed by smoother sailing. So, it would seem that life for my ducky friend is not unlike my own, apart from the vast difference which is that the stakes are higher when we’re talking about human beings. This is where the comparison falls apart entirely, and yet I can still take this reminder to heart.
After 25 years now of seasonal testing God has shown me that I can weather more than I ever imagined. The wind and rain may not be literal but in spite of my own disbelief I can sit on a problem for more than 28 days when I need to. I can bend without breaking and adapt just like Penny has. The same is true for you. Mother Nature’s lessons stretch far enough to embrace us all with this wisdom, we just have to choose to believe it.